A survey has revealed that over 70 percent of restaurants, eateries and fast food joints across Nigeria serve foods cooked with too much salt. By doing this, they breach compliance to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control’s (NAFDAC) rule of 2g sodium per day, an equivalence of 5g salt per day. The investigation showed that restaurant foods are high in salt to make them more palatable. Sodium have been discovered to preserve and enhance the taste of packaged foods.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), sodium is a significant nutrient but it increases the risk of heart diseases, hypertension, stroke and even premature death when consumed in excess. Sodium is mainly sourced in table salt (sodium chloride) but it can also be sourced in sodium glutamate. WHO recent Global report on sodium intake reduction showed that out of all WHO member States, only five percent are guided by mandatory and comprehensive sodium reduction policies while about 73 percent, including Nigeria, are yet to comply with full implementation of these policies.
NAFDAC creates awareness on health risks of high salt intake.
This recent Global report by WHO also reveals that the world is far behind in achievement of its global target of 30 percent reduction of sodium intake by 2025. The estimation of the global average salt intake is 10.8 grammes per day. Excessive intake of salt contributes to diet and nutrition-related deaths. The Professor of Community and Public Health Nutrition, affiliated to the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu State, added that excessive intake of salt causes imbalance of electrolytes due to the rapid increase in sodium. High concentration of sodium also leads to distortion of water balance in the body.
Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, stated that the agency is ensuring creation of awareness concerning the health risks associated with excessive salt intake. She added that the regulatory measures of the agency is obligated to encourage food outlets to reduce salt content during food preparation and inform consumers of the negative effects of high salt consumption on their health, thereby increasing demand for less salty foods. With this, defaulting companies do not necessarily have to be penalized.
Global target, to reduce sodium dietary intake by 30% in ’25.
Recently, there have been introduction of some strategies to make sure food producers produce healthy food products for the populace. These strategies include implementation of compulsory nutrition labelling of packaged foods to ensure customers take known decisions on their food nutrient intake, salt inclusive. There is likewise a collaboration between the agency and academia, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders in aspects of research and monitoring of salt intake among the population, sources of salt in food, and others.
Additionally, NAFDAC has introduced an approved food grade table or cooking salt regulation which has been passed into law which is now entrenched in the law. This law ensures the quality of food-grade salt in the country. Nigeria works in line with the global recommendation of WHO concerning intake of dietary sodium at levels less than 2g of sodium per day, below 5g of salt per day. Nigeria is working in accordance with WHO global targets of reducing dietary sodium consumption by 30 percent in 2025.
High salt intake causes calcifications in heart arteries.
Reduction of sodium content by reformulation of processed foods has proven to be a good strategy for reduction of the population’s consumption of sodium. This strategy is particularly effective in places that record high consumption of processed foods. A high salt diet destabilizes normal blood pressure, causing high blood pressure which might in turn lead to cardiovascular diseases. According to a study by a group of researchers, the higher the salt intake, the higher the risk of calcifications in the arteries of the heart and neck region.